Photo by Gwendolyn Meyer
Baserri has the terroir of West Marin; it tastes like sheep's milk and like the grass they eat on those beautiful hills."
Katrina Parlato, General Manager, Quince Restaurant, San Francisco
Our dairy sheep graze our hilly pastures year round. Our lambs are born in March and we let the lambs have the benefit of the first month of their mothers’ milk.
From April through October we milk our ewes twice a day, and make their rich, delicious, raw milk into a Basque-style cheese that is aged for 60 to 90 days before release. We use a variety of cultures, and traditional animal rennet in the cheese. 2009 was our first year of production and I made only 600 pounds of cheese, which went on sale in August and was sold out by mid-November. In 2010 I made around 3000 pounds of cheese, in 2011 we made about 5000 pounds and expect our production to be similar this season.
My amazing affinage assistant from the 2010 season, Anna Erickson, became my assistant cheesemaker in 2011 and is back in 2012 for her second season making cheese. My biggest challenge is living up to Anna's cheesemaking standards! She's awesome. Anna and I are assisted in affinage this season by Lisa Radke, a woman of many talents,who also milks the ewes on the weekend, and helped out during lambing. We're so happy to have Lisa on board with more responsibilities this season.
Our 90-day aged cheese will be available in mid-July, and this season we will be aging half the cheese for 6 to 9 months. It will be available in January 2013.
Ewe being milked: Photo by Paige Green
Barinaga Ranch Txiki was one of four cheeses to make Sunset Magazine's 2011 "Hot List," 100 top foods to eat, places to visit, things to do. See the article here.
Our Baserri was the centerfold cheese in the Fall 2011 issue of Culture magazine.
What people are saying about our cheese:
I was featured as one of 10 Artisans to Watch in the April 2012 issue of San Francisco Magazine. (Hint: when you click on this link, there is a tiny little right-pointing arrow at the bottom of the screen in the story about jams. Use it to click through the artisans. I'm the 7th artisan listed.)
Ella Lawrence wrote a great piece about us recently in Bay Area Bites.
We were included in an article in the Bohemian about local cheesemakers.
We had a nice mention by Ben Narasin in SF Foodie.
Ray Bair wrote about his visit to the ranch in his September 2011 Cheese Plus newsletter.
Our cheese was recommended by Debra Dickerson and Laura Werlin in SF Foodie in March 2011.
See this recent article about our cheese by Emily Kaiser in The Tasting Table.
Barinaga Ranch: Best Monday Ever by Sarah Dvorak
Barinaga Sheep Ranch: Marshall Matters by Kirstin Jackson
Hooping the cheese
The integrity with which Marcia's cheeses are made is equaled only by the explosive flavors in her cheeses that result. Baserri and Txiki are two of America's best cheeses.
Laura Werlin, Cheese Expert and author of The New American Cheese and Laura Werlin's Cheese Essentials
The larger of our two cheeses is called Baserri, which means farmhouse in Basque. This cheese is a 4- to 5-pound tomme. The green Basque countryside in France and Spain is dotted with ancient tile-roofed baserris where Basque farmers still make their living in traditional ways, often milking their sheep by hand and making small batches of cheese that they sell locally. Our Baserri is made in that spirit, in small batches, by hand. It is a West Marin interpretation of the Basque cheeses you can buy from farmhouses in the Basque country.
Txiki, which means “little” in Basque, is a smaller version of Baserri, a 1.5-pound tommette-sized cheese made from the same recipe as Baserri. The shape produces a different relationship of paste to rind, and a more rapid aging.
You can also buy Baserri and Txiki at Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station, at the Ferry Building in San Francisco and in Washington D.C., at Petaluma Market and Whole Foods in Petaluma, at Park 121 in Sonoma, Good Earth Natural Foods in Fairfax, the Pasta Shop in Berkeley and Oakland, at Cheese Plus, BiRite Market, Rainbow Grocery , Mission Cheese, Little Vine, and other cheese shops in San Francisco, at the Haight and Potrero Hill Whole Foods stores in San Francisco, the Cheese Shop and Big John's Market in Healdsburg, Oxbow Cheese Merchant in Napa, Harvest Market in Mendocino and Fort Bragg, and in the Los Angeles area at Farmshop in Santa Monica, the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, and the Artisan Cheese Gallery in Studio City.
Because our production is so small, our cheese is generally sold locally and doesn't very often make it out of California. But I want to note and acknowledge a few far flung cheese shops that regularly carry our cheese, including The Cheese Cellar in Seattle, Antonelli's Cheese Shop in Austin, Texas, Fromagio's Artisan Cheese in Anchorage, Alaska, Bern's Cave du Fromage in Tampa, Florida, and Zzest Culinary Market and Wine Cafe in Rochester, Minnesota!
If you can't find our cheese at a cheese shop near you, join our mailing list! We offer a limited number of whole wheels of Txiki by mail order, once a month or so, on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are interested, sign up now to get on the list, and we will notify you of our next offering. Go to the contact page to sign up.
Restaurants serving our cheese in San Francisco include Quince, Zuni Cafe, Greens Restaurant, Waterbar, Foreign Cinema, Boulevard, the St Regis Hotel, Piperade and Txoko (pronounced "choko," which is named for the tradational Basque eating and cooking clubs called txokos, and where, fittingly, you will find our Txiki on the menu!).